Historic Sites to Visit in the Brecon Beacons

People have lived and worked in the Brecon Beacons for nearly 8000 years. With each passing century, different communities have left their mark on the landscape. Together, our monuments, settlements, churches, castles, canals, industrial sites and museums speak of times gone by.

Today, the story continues. Our hills, lakes, caves, forests and waterfalls are fascinating to explore, and there’s much to discover in our characterful towns and villages. Why not dive in?

Brecon Cathedral

This magnificent eleventh century cathedral is most often visited for its beautiful choir, vaulting and stained glass windows depicting Welsh saints.

Brecon Cathedral houses the largest Norman font in Britain and the regimental chapel of the South Wales Borderers, who won renown in the Zulu War. The cathedral also contains a rare Breeches Bible. The sixteenth century tithe barn is now a Heritage Centre with reconstructions, audio-visual displays and a craft shop. There is an excellent restaurant and tea room in the cathedral grounds and an outstanding programme of musical events. Pilgrims Tea Rooms and Restaurant (tel 01874 610610, www.pilgrims-tearooms.co.uk), alongside the Heritage Centre in the Cathedral Close, uses locally sourced ingredients. More here.

Tretower Court

The village of Tretower boasts a fine 13th century circular keep and one of the finest late medieval houses in Wales. Together they make up a property which for over 900 years has been altered and adapted to keep up with style and the tastes of the time. Find out more about the history of the court here. 

Abergavenny Castle and Museum

 Abergavenny Castle is a picturesque ruin set against the spectacular hills which surround the town. Its 19th century hunting lodge, built in the style of a keep, is now a museum of local history.

The castle is located just a short walk from the main shopping area of Abergavenny with ample car parking close by. Enough of the castle remains to imagine that it must have been a formidable fortress.

The restored early 19th century hunting lodge built on the original motte, houses Abergavenny Museum which has an interesting collection of artefacts, a Victorian Welsh farmhouse kitchen, a saddler’s workshop among other displays. The museum hosts a number of exhibitions throughout the year, and has quizzes and workshops for children. Info here.

Pen-y-Crug Iron Age Hillfort

Standing on the summit of a prominent hill above the Usk Valley, this is one of the most impressive hillforts in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The remains of Pen-y-Crug hillfort can be found on The Crug, a hill 1.5 miles northwest of Brecon, at a height of 331m. Its ramparts, which today are rounded earthwork banks and ditches, would once have been impressive stone and earth revetments with a wooden defensive palisade built on top. They allowed those who occupied the hillfort to defend themselves and proved a formidable obstacle to anyone attempting to attack the settlement. Entry to the interior of the hillfort was gained through a single well-guarded entrance on the southeast side of the hillfort.
Although, above ground, little survives of the round houses, stock pens and granaries that once occupied the interior of the hillfort, during the Iron Age Pen-y-Crug would have been a very busy place, where people lived, worked, farmed and traded. It may have even been an important political, social and religious centre for the local area. It is clear to see why Iron Age peoples chose to build a defendable settlement here. The hill has extensive views of the central Brecon Beacons, and also views to a number of neighbouring hillforts including Coed Fenni Fach on the adjacent (now wooded) hill and to Twyn-y-Gaer on Mynydd Illtud on the other side of the valley.
The hillfort remains that are visible today date back to the Iron Age (c.800BC to 75AD), although there is some evidence of possible earlier occupation on the site. There are up to five surviving ramparts, made of earth and stone, standing well over a metre high in places and enclosing an area of almost two hectares.

Maen Llia Standing Stone

OS grid reference SN924191

Standing just 60m off the minor road between the Senni valley and Ystradfellte, this impressive stone is relatively easy to visit.

Made from a massive sandstone block which stands 3.7m high, the task of moving and erecting it must have been a huge challenge, especially as it is likely that a quarter to a third of the whole stone is below ground. On a clear day it can be seen from quite some distance down the Llia valley suggesting that it may have been important as a territorial marker. Standing at an altitude of 573m it is also thought to be the highest standing stone in South Wales.

Goytre Wharf

Goytre Wharf is a 200-year-old industrial heritage site on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal near Abergavenny. There’s a busy Canal and River Trust visitor centre and canalboat marina here. The centre has plenty to offer including exhibitions and events, canal trips and children’s activities. The area around the centre has canalside and woodland walks, lots of wildlife to see and audio boxes giving information on the lime kilns. Electric boats, canoes and narrowboats are available to hire. More here.

St Martins Church, Cwmyoy

St Martin’s in Cwmyoy, near Abergavenny, is a pretty little crooked church with a leaning spire.

Cwmyoy Church

The church of St Martin is unique, no part of it being square or at right angles with any other part. This is the result of being built on ground where subsidence has occurred in debris left by glaciation of the valley. Above the church, on the skyline, is a great gash on the side of the mountain caused by a landslide and it is this feature which gives the church and village its name Cwmyoy, sometimes spelt Cwm Iou or Cwm Iau, the valley of the yoke.

Local tradition says the landslide was caused by a terrible earthquake during Christ’s crucifixion, when there was darkness over the whole land and, according to St Matthew’s gospel, the veil of the temple was torn in two. St Martin’s dates back to the Middle Ages and contains a medieval cross, thought to have been one of the crosses of the Pilgrims’ Way to St David’s. It is situated on The Cistercian Way, a long distance walk into the heart of Wales.

The Tithe Barn, Abergavenny

Abergavenny’s Tithe Barn dates back to the 12th century. The building has been restored and converted into an attractive Welsh food hall, shop, café, local history centre and exhibition space. Originally, the Tithe Barn housed the tithes (taxes) paid by the local Image result for tithe barn abergavennycommunity to the monks of St Mary’s Priory, nearby. Over the centuries, the building has been reinvented many times, serving as a coach house, theatre, timber warehouse, grain store, Women’s Institute shop, carpet warehouse and auction house. In the 1960s, it became Abergavenny’s first ever disco. These days it’s a beautiful and popular community and visitor centre, café and shop. One of its prize exhibits is a tapestry created by local residents to celebrate the history of Abergavenny and mark the year 2000. The building is owned and managed by St Mary’s Priory Church and is open to the public. Access is free. More here.

Capel-y-Ffin Monastery

Close to the ruins of Llanthony Priory are the remains of a 19th century monastery, part of which is now a house, the former home of the sculptor Eric Gill. The Reverend Joseph Leycester Lyne, known as Father Ignatius, tried to buy Llanthony Priory from its 19th century owners, the Landor family, but failed. So on St Patrick’s Day 1870, Father Ignatius laid the foundation stone of Llanthony Monastery of Our Ladye and St Dunstan, Llanthony Tertia, at Capel-y-Ffin. He wanted to revive the Benedictine movement in Wales as it is said that he saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a burning bush here. Francis Kilvert, in his diary, tells of the dissatisfied tenants at Llanthony on rent day and he also watched the monks building their church.

Father Ignatius eventually died and was buried in his church, but the building soon became neglected, and today is open to the skies. There is a pilgrimage held annually in August (usually on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend) from Llanthony to Capel-y-Ffin. Part of the monastery is now a private residence and it is here that Eric Gill, the sculptor and typeface designer, lived with his family. It is possible to visit the remains of the church and a small chapel made in the domestic buildings in Gill’s time. More here.

These are just a handful of the many historic sites you can visit in the Brecon Beacons. Find more here.

Find out more about the history of the Brecon Beacons National Park here.

This entry was posted in Brecon Beacons, Brecon Cathedral, goytre wharf, History, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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